When someone’s choking…

October 4, 2019

While eating out at a restaurant and relaxing with your friends and family, one of the last things on your mind would be the presence of a hazard, such as choking. However, according to the National Safety Council, choking is the fourth leading cause of death due to unintentional injuries. Knowing the steps to take when someone is choking is crucial to quickly and effectively restore proper breathing.

The universal sign for choking is two hands clutching the throat, and in addition, most adults and children often panic and stand up. However, if the person that is choking does not give these obvious signals, other signs to look for include an inability to talk or cry, a weak or strong cough, pale blue skin and an inability to breathe. 

Assessing the person for signs such as a cough are important, as these help to determine what needs to be done to help the person. If the person has a strong forceful cough, then encourage them to continue coughing. This will eventually dislodge the foreign object. However, if the person has a weak and ineffective cough, then it is essential to administer abdominal thrusts, also known as the Heimlich Maneuver. By recognizing the need for the Heimlich Maneuver and by administering it effectively, the person should be able to dislodge the foreign object and breathe freely. 

The steps to administer abdominal thrusts on an individual other than yourself are detailed below:

1. Stand directly behind the person choking.

2. Make a fist slightly above their belly button.

3. Grip your fist with your other hand.

4. Forcefully perform a J-shaped motion. Pull the person choking towards yourself, and then perform a quick upwards motion, trying to forcefully and quickly pop your hands up underneath their ribs. 

5. Continue until blockage is dislodged.

 In the case of an obese or pregnant victim, instead of your hands being placed above their belly button, they should be placed on the chest of your patient. It is also essential to perform the J-shaped motion in the Heimlich Maneuver forcefully, to dislodge any objects. 

Now imagine a situation where you are choking, except there is no one around to perform the Heimlich Maneuver on you. Although a very scary scenario, this can easily happen if you are alone frequently. To perform the Heimlich Maneuver on yourself, follow the procedure below. 

1. Make a fist slightly above your belly button

2. Grip your fist with your other hand

3. Bend over a hard surface such as a countertop or table.

4. Jump over the hard surface and land on your abdomen. Simultaneously push your fist inwards and upwards in a J-shaped motion

5. Continue until blockage is dislodged

An infant choking is perhaps one of the scariest situations for a person to be in, and due to their size, the procedure in this scenario is drastically different than for an adult. For an infant, it is essential to stay calm, compose yourself, and follow the process below.

1. Sit down and hold the infant face down on your forearm with their face in your palm.

2. Using the heel of your palm with your other hand, firmly hit the infant in the middle of the back five times.

3. Turn the infant face up so the infant is resting on your forearm. With two fingers on the other hand, push downwards on their sternum to a depth of one inch. This will likely require more force than you initially think.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3.

Now that you have dislodged the object from the victim’s mouth, go pat yourself on the back for a job well done; you could have very well just saved a life! Performing the Heimlich Maneuver and other skills is one of the first steps in becoming more comfortable with dealing with this medical emergency. By being brave enough to step in and save a life, you will prepare yourself to deal with the same emergency once again, this time with a new confident look on your face!

(Note: These articles are good-faith attempts to be helpful to the Brandeis community and are by no means to be taken as universal. This article does not replace the advice of a medical professional. This article is not written on behalf of the Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) and is not affiliated with BEMCo in any manner.)

Menu Title